PARIS, JANUARY 19 – The ancient city of Aleppo, a World Heritage Site, should be declared “emergency zone”, UNESCO stated at the end of emergency assessment mission from 16 to 19 January following the end of the four-years battle for the control of the second largest Syrian city after Damascus .
The UNESCO team reported extensive damage at the Great Umayyad Mosque, the Citadel, mosques, churches, suqs, khans, madrassas, hammams, museums and other significant historic buildings in Aleppo. According to a preliminary assessment, some 60% of the old city of Aleppo has been severely damaged, with 30% totally destroyed.
The mission noted the incredible resilience of the people of Aleppo and the efforts led by heritage professionals to undertake mitigation actions during the conflict, as well as emergency measures for the recovery phase. Damage assessment, debris management and similar emergency issues were discussed during a number of working meetings with the Aleppo City Council, the DGAM and NGOs, in order to identify adequate proposals and coordinate action. During these consultations, it was proposed to declare the Ancient City of Aleppo an “emergency zone”. At the same time, UNESCO is working on an emergency initiative to coordinate international efforts.
In the field of education, UNESCO reports the indescribable destruction of learning institutions. The schools visited by UNESCO in east Aleppo are either destroyed or require extensive rehabilitation. The Osam Alnadir basic school is barely recognizable. The nationally renowned Aleppo Fourth Vocational Institute, specialized in technical education, has been reduced to rubble. The very few schools still in operation are in dire situation, unsafe for learning, deprived of electricity or water, featuring broken doors and windows, as well as fragments of shrapnel.
“The destruction of one of the greatest and more ancient cities in the world is a tragedy for all Syrians and for all humanity” said the Director-General Irina Bokova: “This situation calls for immediate action and the highest sense of responsibility and coordination.”
The peoples of Aleppo and Syria know too well the importance of education and culture to foster resilience and build peace. UNESCO stands by them to accelerate the resumption of all educational institutions and the protection of heritage. Close to 20 schools have reopened since December 2016. Demand is extremely high, and alternative learning spaces, such as mobile classes, must be built and made available on an urgent basis. In all of the opened schools visited, UNESCO witnessed the immense determination to get back to normality, with so many children eager to learn and teachers delivering despite the little they have. (@OnuItalia)